Assault has four elements:

  1. intent

  2. apprehension

  3. causation

  4. damages

To meet the apprehension requirement there must be a reasonable belief or awareness of imminent harmful or offensive contact that would be a battery if completed.

My textbook discusses how words may affect apprehension. They say the following:

Words may characterize or even negate a gesture – “if it were not for your white hair I would punch you in the nose.”

The book also says

But words cannot present a tortious alternative – “your money or your life”

I am not sure what my textbook is trying to say by this. I think that in the first sentence it is showing an example of words that negate apprehension. The second sentence, however, confuses me. Explain what the text means by tortious alternative and whether the tortious alternative prevents apprehension or allows it.


You would have to ask the author what their intent was, but it makes more sense if "alone" appears after "words". §31 Restatement, Second, Torts says

Words do not make the actor liable for assault unless together with other acts or circumstances they put the other in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact with his person.

As the commentary says, mere words with no action do not make you liable for assault. You could categorize verbiage in terms of alternative (conditional) threats (§30, "your money or your life") or an unconditional threat ("I'm gonna beat you"). The word of the example presents an alternative, but it is not tortious (because there are only words, not acts).

  • so is the tortious alternative okay or not? – S J Dec 24 '18 at 0:00
  • It is an alternative, but it is not tortious (because it is just words). – user6726 Dec 24 '18 at 0:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.